What happens when a guitarist with eclectic electricity and the former rhythm section of the legendary band Fugazi get together to make an album? You get The Messthetics. Made up of Anthony Pirog, a guitarist who’s varied career has seen him as one half of the experimental duo Janel & Anthony among other things, the drummer who we last listened to with Deathfix, Brendan Canty, and bassist Joe Lally who answered a few questions for Last Day Deaf below (be sure to check out his solo work as well). The band’s self titled debut was released last month via Dischord Records to rave reviews. You can catch The Messthetics live this week (April 19th) at the Space Ballroom in Hamden, CT.
How did this latest journey take off? It’s been 15 years since Fugazi’s hiatus began, how did two former members meet again artistically with the addition of guitarist Anthony Pirog?
I returned to Washington, DC after living in Rome, Italy for 8 years and Brendan asked if I wanted to get together with a guitar player he knew.
Anthony played around the DC area in so many different projects Brendan was impressed with the diversity of his playing and was looking for a way to get together with him. The day the 3 of us first got together we played music from my solo records because they were easy to improvise to.
We had a great time, but they were both busy with other things. A few months later Anthony asked if we would be the rhythm section on an album he wanted to record.
What went into recording your debut? It’s my understanding it was recorded at Brendan’s rehearsal space in D.C.?
We let Anthony take his time crafting the ideas he brought in and the songs started building pretty easily. We recorded our practices in Brendan’s studio and thought they sounded fine, so we decided when we were happy with the songs we would do the final recordings there. It was very comfortable for us that way.
How does instrumentation alone speak better allegorically in this format as opposed to having lyrical accompaniment?
This was Anthony’s record we were working on. He doesn’t sing, so it never came up as a question.
What would you say the general zeitgeist is of the debut? What ties the album together as a whole?
Anthony’s voice as a guitarist. That’s were it’s all coming from. I wouldn’t know how to begin describing why. That’s the beauty of listening. It’s all pretty clear if you’re paying attention. I imagine it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Was there anything you were trying to channel on the LP? Did you find anything in particular inspiring, or did you find inspiration in the making itself?
Playing with Brendan and Anthony is very inspiring in itself. If 3 people like making music together they just get down to doing the work.
The cover art for your LP is quite creative. Could you talk a little on your collaboration with the artist?
The front cover was taken by Brendan while he was on a trip in Romania. The back is a collage of live shots taken by Antonia Tricarico, my better half.
Antonia had been taking photos of us at most of the shows we played in DC, unless the lighting was terrible.
How would you describe your music – with The Messthetics and elsewhere – in painting form? What would the imagery be like?
Could you paint that question and send it back?
I found ‘Once Upon A Time’ to be one of the most expansive tracks off the album, along with it’s soft gorgeousness. What went into creating this song?
That song was written by Sonny Sharrock. We tried putting a beat on it without ruining the essence of the song. I wouldn’t say it was impossible to improve on the original though.
How would you describe your own inner oceans? Aside from having us all listen to ‘The Inner Ocean’.
I don’t think I can get that down in a sentence or two, but hopefully they don’t contain too much plastic.
Have there been any artists to pique your interest lately? What are all of you listening to?
We listen to a wide variety of things. Lately there’s been a lot of Bo Diddley in the van. For my part, Sleaford Mods, Hamid Drake. I’m not up on the current trends.
What’s your first musical memory? A specific song that sticks out or the first time you picked up an instrument?
The first song that really struck me deeply was ‘Try A Little Tenderness‘ by Otis Redding. The recording from the Monterrey Pop Festival. I was probably 8 years old. I certainly didn’t understand everything he was talking about, but his passion moved me.
What’s your take on the d.i.y. scene currently? In D.C. particularly, as you all have definitive knowledge there.
I don’t get out as much to see shows like I used to. I know that the DIY scene is always taking place all over the world. Here in Takoma Park, DC I like a spot called Rhizome. It’s in a residential house, but no one lives there. A lot of experimental music and free jazz shows happen there.
Your music is made up of the live experimentation ethos, so what’s the reaction been like to your live performances of The Messthetics thus far? From yourselves and your audience? And what could fans and soon-to-be fans expect from you in this setting? Such as on April 19th at the Space Ballroom in Hamden.
Of course we like what we’re writing, people who come seem to enjoy it too. I guess they can expect to hear music like we are playing on the album with some new songs which are finished or in the process of writing.
What can be expected of The Messthetics moving ahead? Any plans for 2018?
We’re playing as much as we can this year.
Photo credits: Antonia Tricarico